A revolution in winemaking has taken place in the country over the past few decades, bringing with it new techniques, approaches, and even a new attitude about wine. In addition to its fortified wines (Port and Madeira), Portugal is also well-known for its tart, light Vinho Verde. However, in the past two decades, Portugal has become widely known for its new wave of full-bodied table wines, especially the reds produced in the Douro Valley.
The country’s 195,000 hectares of vineyards produce an estimated 600 million litres of wine annually (almost half of which is exported) (480,000 acres).
The climate of Portugal is perfect for creating wine because it is mild and mostly marine. Mountainous regions, river basins, sandy littoral plains, and limestone-rich coastal hills all contribute to the country’s wide range of terroirs.
Baixo Corgo is the subregion of the Douro wine region that benefits from a warmer, rainier environment, whereas Cima Corgo is home to a bigger vineyard area and a more variable climate.
The warm climate and protection from the nearby Monchique Mountains in the Algarve wine area make it an ideal place for fruit growing, and the territory borders the Alentejo.
The country’s varied topography is ideal for cultivating a wide range of grape varieties, and winemaking has a long and storied history there. Certain heat-loving grape types thrive in Portugal’s hot, dry conditions, which are found in locations like the Alentejo, which receives more than 3,000 hours of sunlight annually.
Portuguese territory is a narrow, north-to-south sliver of land in the far southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. The country is roughly 650 km (400 mi) long and 200 km (120 mi) across, ranging from the sun-drenched beaches (and vineyards) of the Algarve in the south to the green, river valleys of the Minho/Vinho Verde and Tras-os-Montes/Transmontano in the extreme northwest and northeast, respectively.
Port and still red wines are produced along the Douro River and its valleys in northern Portugal, with the city of Porto serving as a major hub for both winemaking and maturing.
The Beiras, made up of the coastal Beira Atlantico and the interior Beira Interior, stretch between the (nearly) coastal city of Porto and the capital Lisbon, 300 kilometres (200 miles) to the south. The Denominaço de Origem Controlada (DOC) wine areas of the Do and Bairrada are located within this expansive territory.
Several distinct wine-producing areas surround the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. These include the city itself, the Setbal Peninsula (previously Estremadura), the Tejo Valley to the northeast, and Alentejo to the east. The Algarve is the southernmost point of Portugal.
It is possible that Madeira’s position (more than 900 km/600 mi southwest of Lisbon and several hundred km due west of the Moroccan coast town of Essaouira) and its distinctive fortified wines contribute to the island’s lack of universal recognition as part of Portugal. However, the island is technically a “independent province” of Portugal, just like the Azores archipelago further west in the Atlantic.
Ampelographers are plagued by Portugal’s diverse vine kinds and their innumerable regional synonyms. Some, like Touriga Nacional, can only be found in Portugal, while others, including Tinta Roriz and Tempranillo, may also be found in adjacent Spain. In total, about 250 species are recognised as indigenous
“International varieties” (mostly of French origin) have also been planted, with Syrah being the clear frontrunner. Winemakers in Portugal have been able to keep their products distinctive because their current success is not based on this category.
Actually, only Syrah stands out as an outsider among the top 10 grape varietals planted in the country. The most widely cultivated red grape is Tinta Roriz, while other varieties include Touriga Franca, Castelo, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, and Baga.
While the high-acid Loureiro has yet to break into the top ten, the white varieties represented by Fernao Pires, Siria (Roupeiro), and Arinto (Pederna) include all of the bases.
Famous Portuguese Wines
2018 Quinta de Tourais ‘Lilipop’ Tinto
The Tinto Caó vine is used to make a full-bodied, flavorful wine in the Douro region of Portugal. Body-wise, it’s substantial, with hints of wild fruit. This Tinto Cao wine spends 12 months ageing in used French oak barrels.
2011 Muxagat Tinta Barroca
This Tinta Barroca wine comes from the Douro region. Flavors of red fruit predominate, with a touch of spice for emphasis. Velvety, with a hint of herb on the palate.
2014 Quinta do Pinto Estate Collection Tinto
Extremely rare, Alenquer’s red mix provides a rich and strong medium-tannin experience. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Merlot, and Syrah are used to create the mix. It has a robust aroma of blackberries, coconut, and spices, with a flavour profile that includes black fruit, oak, and chocolate.
2012 Comenda Grande Reserva
This red wine is from Portugal’s Alentejo area. The Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira grapes are blended together to create this red wine. The fruitiness of this dry wine is balanced by a moderate amount of tannin.
2013 Alves de Sousa Quinta da Oliveirinha Vinha Franca
Delicious wine made from the Touriga Franca vine. It’s quite intense, dry, and brazen, with flavours of black fruit and wood.